During the American Seed Trade Association's 129th Annual Convention U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack challenged the seed industry to help educate policymakers in D.C. about the importance of ag research and farmers about coexistence.

"The research budget for agriculture within the department has been a flat line for way too long," Vilsack said. "The private industry has been investing their own dollars into research because they understand the power.

"We've to do a better job of convincing policymakers that ag research is as important to this nation as the NIH (National Institute of Health) and curing cancer. When you stop investing in research, you stop being productive."

He stressed the importance of research and innovation in helping farmers adapt to climate change and be more efficient with resources such as water, nitrogen and fertilizer.

This coupled with the increasing population and using less land puts more pressure on the seed industry to continue the history of strong innovation and bringing new products to the marketplace.

The Secretary said that as science changes and advances the regulatory framework needs to follow.

"Our regulatory processes have got to be in synch with the science," he said.

Vilsack said there needs to be more conversations about the importance of science, as well as production methods.

"GE (genetic engineering), conventional, organic - there are some conversations about which one is the best and which one is the morally correct," Vilsack said. "We have a large country and vast land holders."

He said farmers should be able to choose the production method they want.

"That requires us to facilitate a conversation between those producers and to recognize that there are some legitimate questions that need to be asked," Vilsack said. "As seed companies, you understand this. You create conditions and requirements and you minimize risks for farmers that buy your seed.

"We need to have a different conversation in the countryside. It's not that we are one or the other; we are all types of production. That's the challenge we have and you, the seed industry, can help us. We want all aspects of agriculture and we want agriculture to be an attractive place."